Title: All this scratching is making us rich
Author: James Brown
Publish date: 30 April, 1988
All this scratching is making us RICH
Three years ago ZTT wanted us to Come and Relax; now they want us to Go-Go! NASTY ROX INC., are the label’s new brat firepower, their debut single ‘Escape From New York’ was paroled on Monday. Will its raucous amphetamine go-go explode and expose a whole new gritty underground? Or will it bomb-bomb and sink without trace? Fork-tongued funk-wit JAMES BROWN thinks he co-cos. KEVIN CUMMINS takes the photos.
“Blue Hell is what Holly Johnson called this place,” says Dan Fox in his early afternoon stubble, ripped jeans, and rabbit-skin Kangol beret. Dan is passing a speaker that his new single has just destroyed across a mixing-desk to his scratch-partner in crime CJ Mackintosh, CJ — a plump suntanned Holly look-a-like in Def Jam T-shirt, “With the playing arm logo”, and leather jacket — takes the redundant box and replaces it with one Sade is booked to use the next day.
“They’ll never notice the difference, all Sade’s songs sound like they’ve been mixed through broken speakers.”
After an hour in Sarm West, the physical heart of Sang Tuum Tumb (a concrete block of ice box blue recording studios snuggled down a dusty back street in West London) you begin to appreciate Holly’s point of view, Sarm West has an asylum quality to it’s interior design. It’s an aspect the malchick, who cross continents to pay homage to the awful Bros who record here, never see.
Today there is no one outside in the street hoping to catch a glimpse of teenage star-flesh or flat-top. They are all elsewhere watching the organised S&M of the London Marathon. No one sees nor hears what tumbles out of the fresh speakers once the control deck is activated
YOU soon will though. The current President of the United State of America introcuded ‘Escape from New York’, the debut single by Nasty Rox Inc for ZTT Records, with a legitimate personalized optimistic message for post-Apocalypse go-go fanatics. Such is the way of Nasty Rox, a living arsenal of brattish firepower with the go-go ammo to blast every bombed out sample express right off the tracks. It’s a style you could learn to like.
Death to the matt-black ideal dream home and all power to the arsehole lunatic kids of the Gritty Underground. Such is the message of David Dorrell; it’s hardly Bret Easton Ellis, but then Nasty Rox aren’t a coked-out rich kid’s Curiosity.
Nasty Rox Inc, are CJ Mackintoch (esteemed DJ), John Waddell (guitars and cowboy hat), Leo T (dangerous bass lines) and Dan Fox (malleable vocals).
David Dorrell, ex-NME writer, respected DJ, member of chart toppers M/A/R/R/S, and hip Amish type looking geezer, is their ‘pop instigator’. His current role is to beat a path ahead for them.
“There is a lot of space at the moment for music coming through,” he tells me. “Even to the extent of The Primitives making the Top Five, which is nice and quite sweet. I reckon people are keen on the idea of an underground because it’s coming throug in so many different areas.
“In comics, Martial Law is so outrageously violent but I like it because it’s… gritty. And the same with skateboarding and BMX even, and all those loony surf bands on the West Coast (of America). It’s all great and it’s all lunatic arsehole kids, and they’re bored.
“They’re bored of people telling them that what they want is a matt black dream home. People should get a violent physical enjoyment from music like they get when they’re gripping the machine gun on the Lone Wolf in the arcade.”
Nasty Rox Inc’s music is designed to provide this thrill for you. Loud loutish lovers of rock, rap, go-go, Amerikana, fantasy, and aggression, their music reflects their personal interests down to a T.
“The sort of music we’re doing now will kill all those other guys who are just putting different people’s records over the top of each other. It’s still fairly easy to do that,” snorts CJ Mackintosh, and he has a point.
Nasty Rox Inc were formed mid 1986 when Dan and John closed down their previous outfit, Say Wild, and began working in a more definite direction with the help of Dorrell, who Dan had known since school. The difference between the old band and new Dan claims, is merely the difference between weak musicians and good ones.
The most important move for Nasty Rox though, came when Dorrell asked Chris Mackintosh, who he knew through a pirate radio station they both worked on, to join the band as a DJ. It was an inspired selection; CJ turned out to be the only dance DJ Dorrell has met who owned the entire Buzzcocks’ singles collection.
A line-up of sorts was established and after an initial hip-fashion press flurry which was all the rage courtesy of Sputnik, the band went underground. CJ became Britain’s fastest mix master, winning the 1986 Technics Mixing Championship; a demon mother-funkin’ soul bassist called Leo joined; and Dorrell began sinking all the money he earned DJ’ing into studio and rehearsal time for the band.
Being sweet with the gab and relying on the band’s music rather than scams (unlike his old NME ‘sparring partner Amrik Rai with Chakk, Age Of Chance, and finally Krush) Dorrell won the time of many an A&R man. However few understood why NRI wanted to sound like Led Zepplin and a funk group at the same time.
Fortunately, ZTT knocked on the rehearsal room door and inquirws if they could look and listen.
In trooped Gill Sinclair, Trevor Horn, Paul Morley, and Steve Lipson. After the first song Horn, burst into spontaneous applause, by the end of the fifth (during with Mackintosh dropped in a scratch of a Yes song that Horn had produced), the former Buggles’ god was ajar. An immediate conference took place outside in the ZTT car and a week later Nasty Rox Inc were signed to what was then still the most prestigious label in the land.
Today, few bands would warm to ZTT quite so eagerly, yet Dorrell feels confident.
“The deal with ZTT was good because we got what we want from them — an LP produced by Trevor out in the first six months. As it was this didn’t happen but that was our own choice. In many ways Nasty Rox are what the future of ZTT is going to be about. The poetry and pretension is part of the past, I did sit down with Morley for three days and discuss marketing ideas, the best being to use Action Men instead of the band in photo sessions, but nothing ever came of them. We just got on with making the music.”
“It was actually better that we worked with Steve Lipson rather than Trevor because he understood what we wanted to do; he didn’t try and moud or twist us into his project,” continues John. “He started off by saying that our song structures were impossible but that he’d make them sound as great as they could sound. It was especially good because he really worked CJ hard to get the best out of him.”
Probably the second most important addition to the Nasty Rox line up was when Tackhead percussionist Keith Le Blanc agreed to play drums on the single.
The Nasty Rox LP will break out of London in mid June, it’s working title ‘Led Zep 2’. The first single ‘Escape From New York’ got parole on Monday.
Boiling with riffs, and bristling with scrathes, the bands’ songs have the imperative pre-ejaculatory tensions of all great music. Like the excitement of The Beaties or That Petrol Emotion live, with the sheer thrill of Public Enemy’s recorded high-spots, Nasty Rox have come up with the right amounts of power, ability, and creativity to explode all the best strains of gritty underground and turn it into a living room terror.
The single has little do with John Carpenter’s film of the same name and more to do with the chorus of Chuck Brown’s ‘Money’ which makes up the main structure of the song. The use of Brown’s voice itself involves a tale of con-tricks, European music festivals, and Washington Go-Go gangsters.
“Every year a character called Max Kydd, who is one of two businessmen who run the Washington music scene, comes out to Europe to pull a scam. This year he had us hook line and sinker. He’s credited with the publishing rights to Chuck Brown’s ‘Money’ on the back of the sleeve, so we negotiated with him and he eventually let us have use of Chuck’s lyrics for a mere $500. Which we thought was great, so he offed with the money and a few days later we were informed that he didn’t own the copyright at all and that we’d have to pay Island Records if we wanted to use the lyrics. Of course, Kydd is now impossible to get hold of.”
You see if you don’t go-go with the flow-flow you end up getting taken.
Statuettes on motorbike handlebars, safety pins through noses, VW badges on chains — can they all be rubbed together once more into a challenging ball of brattishness less than a year since the last urchin ground-burst? Of course they can.
Nasty Rox don’t claim to be anybody’s Beasts on a leash or anyone’s Pistol-packing pocket-racket, they’re as relatively quiet and modest as aspiring rock stars can be. But what’s impressive is they let their music do the walking, the talking, and the squawking.
Visually they are the very essence of the modern adventure movie, four very different blokes who’ve been lumped together to do… what? A jail breakout, the Dirty Dozen divided by three? ‘A mission from God’ is what the press release unoriginally suggests.
Nasty Rox could almost be a young Village People as far as their visual variety goes.
“Yeah, Village People, ha ha ha ha ha ha. I like that, though it’s John’s cowboy hat that is the only similarity.”
You do all look very different.
“That’s because we are and that’s a reflection of the music. It’s not contrived, although John does have his horse outside.”
“It’s not a contrived cross fertilisation,” takes up the wounded cowboy. “Where someone has said, ‘Let’s have a bit of this and a bit of this’, it’s just four very different personalities from different areas coming together.”
“And,” cringes Dan. “This is real ‘60s ‘Let’s get together’ shit but it could only happen in music that four guys who hate each other, only joking, can get together and work well.”
“I hope people will buy it because it does look out all ways,” Dorrell continues. “It’s not like Rick Astley who is just looking straight into the eyes of everyone’s little sister and saying ‘I am your Mills & Boon fantasy pop singer, please buy my record’. And that is the one market he is aimed at and that’s so sad but that’s the way business works ‘Target your area and sell’.”
By taking so long to release your first songs haven’t you been usurped by the sampling Singles?
“No, because I don’t think sampling is going to be something that comes and goes in five minutes, so they’ve not beaten us at anything,” John fires back. “The initial excitement of, ‘Hey let’s make a record out of other people’s stuff’ might die away but we drop bits of other people’s records into our own songs in a very creative way, through scratching not sampling.”
Nasty Rox have had to sacrifice originality to time and song titles to other bands though; Age Of Chance have a ‘Take It’ and Public Enemy have a ‘You’re Gonna Get Yours’ — both are titles of songs that will appear on the debut Nasty LP.
“The big difference between ourselves and S-Express and all the other sampling people is that we’re a band and have been so for quite some time,” adds Dan.
The funny thing about the sampling hits lately is that they have all tried to pretend that they are bands, on TOTP they’ve all tried to perform like bands,” comments Dorrell, which is ironic as it was his ‘Pump Up The Volume’ that really started all this.
“The important thing is we are going to be able to do it live. That’s where it will really work for us,” finishes Dan.
“CJ will not be saying, ‘Let’s have a bit there and a bit there’,” Leo reassures me. “His scratches have been built into the songs, he’s been involved with the songwriting from the start. The turntables are just another instrument and I think we’re the first band to really accomplish that.”
“We want to get away from the idea that there are certain samples your are ‘supposed’ to use. If it works we’ll use it, like we’re using the un-hippest band in the world, Yes. We’ve worked in the only good part from ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ that Trevor Horn actually nicked from The World Famous Supreme Team ‘Live In New York’.
“And we’ve used the Frankie Valli theme to Grease. But we’re also using our own stuff. We’ve started putting our own vocals, guitars, etc onto record so that CJ can scratch them back in.”
Unless Nasty Rox learn to record and release quicker they are in danger of becoming predictable, two-dimensional, and worthless. There is no point having the best sounding record since ‘Relax’ if someone else has already written the song.
But such are the pitfalls of modern music. There is a definite sense of permanence to Nasty Rox, they aren’t a last ditch satellite from Gimmick City, they are a band with powerful and energetic ideas and demands. Although they will play live in Britain and New York before hand, their first prestige performances in the UK will be with James Brown in Brixton in June. They are also currently being invited to Japan to work on video treatments there.
With music moving so rapidly and yet with the public still whining for the Wet Wet Wets the idea of a gritty underground rebel chic is an appetising prospect and a blatant necessity. In the film world Keifer Sutherland is the star of the new wave of Nasty Sprog Inc, and in music Nasty Rox Inc — with their 2000AD designed logo, glam knuckle dusters, and assault course amphetamine go-go — are to set up a Brattish Empire worth shouting about.
Musically Nasty Rox are this summer’s first burst of anti-social gunfire, let’s hope they hit their targets:
“I wouldn’t say we were particularly rebellious as people,” concludes Dan. “But our music is likely to make people sit up and take notice. The idea of rebellion is always going to be more interesting than Mr Nice & Safe. We’re going to sell to all the people out there with some wit and style, who want to enjoy themselves.”
Yes”, laughs Dorrell. “I know where both of them live and I’m personally going to go round to each of their houses and make them buy our records.”
As that great but petite disco guerrilla Janet Jackson once snarled, NASTY!!!!!!